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Having a backup plan for emergencies is essential, and this medicinal plant replaces many staples in the first-aid kit — in addition to some other sanitary necessities.
Commonly used to create textural interest in border flower gardens, wooly lamb’s ear is an adaptable perennial that is quick to spread to other areas of the homestead and is often labeled a weed in backyards across the country.
Each silvery-green leaf is covered with a light fuzz that is extremely soft. Pale violet flowers bloom late in the season, though they hold little to no medicinal value. (They do make a nice addition to floral arrangements, though).
Starting your own patch of wooly lamb’s ear is relatively easy. It can be started from seed in seedling pots or small containers, and can continue to grow to maturity in containers, provided they are thinned out regularly and are stored in a sheltered area over the harshest winter month.
In a garden or raised bed, plant seedlings 12 inches apart in a partly shady spot. Lamb’s ear prefers six to eight hours of sunlight. It is hardy, tolerating most well-drained soils, but is prone to wilting in the hottest days of the year. Equally important, the plant is drought-tolerant and deer-resistant. It will easily spread to the surrounding areas and should be regularly thinned.
Wooly lamb’s ear is harvested at various stages of development, which should be based on its intended purpose. Plucked from the ground, leaves can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator or other cool container for a few days at the most. In most cases, leaves of any size are fine to use. At the end of the long-growing season, leaves can be dried for use in the winter months.
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Wooly lamb’s ear has historically been used for a wide variety of purposes.
The soft, fuzzy leaf of the wooly lamb’s ear plant is an excellent substitute for a bandage. Hunters and soldiers refer to the plant as “woundwort” and have used the leaves as field dressing for years with great success. Each leaf is antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, thus reducing the risk of infection.
Furthermore, it readily absorbs blood and assists in the blood-clotting process. It is also safe to use on children and most livestock. These leaves are often used in conjunction with comfrey leaves to dress wounds.
Because of its unique texture and absorbent nature, in addition to its anti-bacterial properties, lamb’s ear makes a great emergency substitute for several personal hygiene products. When the stockpile runs out, wooly lamb’s ear leaves can be used as toilet paper. In the past, the leaves also were used for feminine hygiene needs, including use as an aid following childbirth.
A crushed or bruised leaf will release a clear juice that relieves insect bites, spider bites and bee and wasp stings. When applied to the affected area, the juice will reduce swelling and inflammation and calm the itch from the bite or sting. The juice is also useful for treating inflammatory conditions such as hemorrhoids.
Steeping the leaves creates an antibacterial, antiseptic wash that can be used to bathe wounds. Additionally, wooly lamb’s ear is useful for soaking traditional bandages to reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. A mild or diluted wash can be used as an eye wash that is useful for treating pinkeye and sties.
Harvest young, tender leaves for drying. Consuming tea made from dried, young wooly lamb’s ear leaves reduces pain and fevers. It speeds the recovery of sore throats and mouth sores as well as slows diarrhea. Historically, tea made from wooly lamb’s ear was used to strengthen weakened heart conditions and also thought to stop internal bleeding.
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